That night, we slept in our own rooms.
Ellen and I shared a bed in the dormitory those days. However, the other students were with us at that moment—Ellen didn’t even try sleeping with me in that situation.
She didn’t seem to have any nightmares anymore, but would she be able to sleep well on her own?
Thinking about those things, I found myself unable to sleep. The others seemed to have fallen asleep rather quickly because they were completely exhausted, but my stamina had become unnecessarily higher, so I didn’t have much trouble playing around underwater all day.
If overworking one’s body became a daily routine, one wouldn’t get tired even if one overworked it a little bit, so I couldn’t sleep.
In the end, I didn’t manage to fall asleep, so I decided to leave the room and get some tea.
Since the servants slept in a different building, there were none around at that moment, so we were the only ones in the mansion.
“…What? Weren’t you sleeping?”
“…I woke up.”
Ellen was sitting absentmindedly on the terrace at the end of the second floor’s hallway, so I approached her and asked her why she was there; that was her answer.
She had fallen asleep. I couldn’t help but notice that her pajamas were slightly wet. She had experienced another nightmare and was sweating profusely.
I also had nightmares, but not to the point where I couldn’t sleep as Ellen did. It seemed that Ellen was a lot more traumatized by our experience than I was.
I sat down on the chair next to Ellen, but we had nothing to say.
When it was just the two of us, it felt like things were getting better, but when I saw our classmates, I couldn’t help but realize it once more.
“Liana seemed to have improved her abilities a lot during our vacations.”
“Is that so?”
“Yeah, she was acting like usual, but I heard she improved a lot.”
Ellen didn’t wait for me to talk to her first but took the initiative.
Ellen had obviously changed.
“Adelia’s magic crafting is still not there yet, but it seems like she’s able to do some basic permanent enchantments and magic artifacts.”
“Hmm… That’s a fast improvement.”
As Adelia was stuck in Temple, all she did was study, but she spent her time to the fullest, so she was able to do a lot more things.
“Harriet seemed to have studied some destruction and support magic that can be used in practice.”
It looked like Harriet had studied a lot of practical magic during the vacation.
Judging by what I had seen on the beach, Heinrich’s ability also underwent some major improvements. Although what I saw wasn’t quite on the level of a bonfire yet.
Everyone had grown in their own way.
“Everyone worked hard.”
“Yes. I think so too.”
Ellen stared out at the waves crashing on the shore. Everyone had grown in their own way.
“I think we were in too much of a hurry.” “I wish I had just tried to improve in a normal way. I wanted to be stronger, faster, just a little bit stronger… I think I made a big mistake.”
We had become stronger, that was for sure. Ellen dipped her foot into the realm of superhumans, and I had also seen some major improvements in my abilities.
We had made a lot of money, and I had acquired a powerful, albeit cursed, sword.
However, even if we had chosen normal ways to improve, we would have steadily become stronger.
We had gone through terrible things, and we had to lie or shut those up who were asking about them.
Those children lived their own lives during the vacations, and they grew in one way or another.
We might have made a mistake while trying to take a shortcut to become stronger just a bit faster.
In the end, we were even forced to hurt Harriet.
Ellen seemed to have felt a lot of different emotions when she saw her classmates growing step by step using different methods from us.
I took a deep breath. As someone who had gone through the same, I didn’t want to say it…
“Although what we experienced wasn’t positive, let’s try thinking positively.”
“Yeah, even though what we experienced was terrible, we can’t say that the results are bad.”
What Ellen needed was a cruel duality of things. I looked straight into Ellen’s eyes, who seemed a little confused.
“We saved more than we killed.”
“It was terrible, but definitely nothing we have to be ashamed of.”
At least 50 people would have died if it wasn’t for us. Although the experience was incredibly tough and terrible, it couldn’t ever be called worthless.
It seemed like Ellen was drowning herself in shame, thinking that our deeds were completely worthless.
“It might have been a mistake that we went to the Darklands, but we didn’t make any mistakes while we were there.”
We made the best choices we could while we were there. There was no reason to be hunted by shame and nightmares.
“…Is that so?”
I nodded at Ellen’s question.
The next day.
We had a simple breakfast prepared by the servants.
“…What’s with this atmosphere?”
Liana tilted her head as she seemed to sense the slightly strained atmosphere. Harriet’s expression was noticeably sad, and Ellen didn’t really seem to react much, but she did stop eating her food.
Harriet would usually just pout and go, “Hmpf!”, she wasn’t reacting like that, though. It was seriously hard to bear seeing her hurt.
When she was really sad, Harriet wouldn’t get mad.
—She would just internalize her pain.
I came to know that fact all over again. It was incredibly hard to look at.
“Anyway, I’m going to Rajak today, but if you want to come with, you can. If you don’t want to, you can just rest here.”
I didn’t really know what she was planning. I thought that it would be more annoying to go with her, so I decided to stay behind and rest.
“Ellen, come with me.”
For some reason, Liana seemed to want to take Ellen with her.
“Looking at your swimsuit is just unpleasant. We’ll go buy a new one. I’ll pay.”
It seemed to have bothered her a lot seeing Ellen play around at the beach in a Temple swimsuit.
No, was it really that unpleasant?
Well, how could I understand the likes and dislikes of a Duchy’s young lady? Ellen didn’t seem to have any objections.
No, but I also only brought a Temple swimsuit, you know? Why did she only want to buy something for Ellen?
“Hey, what about me?”
“Wow, are you seriously asking me to buy you something with such confidence? How about no?”
Of course, I was only asking to ask; I didn’t really want her to buy a swimsuit.
Heinrich said that he would tag along, and Adelia also said she would go after some hesitation.
“I’ll stay here.”
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“Yeah, do that.”
It seemed like Harriet wanted to rest in the mansion, not feeling like going anywhere. I thought about following after her, but looking at Harriet’s expression, it seemed like she wanted to be left alone.
I had to give her something, though.
I didn’t know if it would make her feel better.
“I want to stay here as well.”
I decided to stay in the mansion, too.
* * *
Everyone left the mansion and headed towards Rajak. It seemed like they would be taking a carriage, as we were in a suburban area, so it was quite a distance away.
Harriet and I were the only ones left in the mansion.
When I knocked on the door of Harriet’s room, she opened it while wearing an incredibly depressed expression on her face.
Harriet came out of her room without saying even a single word. We went to the terrace at the end of the hallway where the guest rooms were located—the place where Ellen and I had talked the previous night. Harriet sat down on one of the chairs.
Of course, it was daytime by then, so we were treated to a refreshing view quite different from the night view.
“Are you angry?” Normally, I would have asked her if she was pouting, but if I had done that, she would have gotten hurt even more.
“I’m not angry.” Harriet muttered with a melancholic look in her eyes.
“It’s just… I was so worried about you guys. And yet you said something like I didn’t need to know about these kinds of things… It felt like you were saying that I wouldn’t understand even if you told me about what happened…”
Harriet clenched her little fists.
“That’s why I feel so disappointed.”
She had stayed up all night worrying about us and had even made some artifacts for us.
As she knew that it was able to protect us, she was both worried and slightly excited to find out in what way it helped us.
However, the only answer that came back was that she didn’t have to know.
She couldn’t help but feel incredibly disappointed.
Ellen felt guilty for being unable to tell her anything, so that was what caused that chilly atmosphere that morning.
If one were to just leave them alone, it was pretty much clear that the funeral-house-like atmosphere would continue.
“We aren’t dismissing you.”
“It’s just… Something hard to talk about. That’s all.”
Back in the Darklands, we had felt like we had to do something, as if someone was chasing after us. However, after we returned to a safe environment, we realized what we had done.
Harriet looked at me, as I was speaking in a tone that I had never used before.
I pulled something out of my pocket and placed it on the table.
It was a pair of earrings.
“What… are those?”
“I picked these up on the way here.” (T/N: Korean pick-up line in the sense of I picked up my heart on the way to you.)
I just wanted to say something like that once, but Harriet didn’t seem to understand.
“I got them while we were over there. You use them.”
“…What are they?”
“Earrings. Don’t you even know that much?”
They were useless to me. Ellen, who had an even stronger mentality than I—who was supported by Sacred Spirit—also had no use for them.
I could sell them, but then I started to think about who would need them, and eventually, I came to a conclusion.
“I heard they are artifacts that have Tranquility magic enchanted on them. Neither Ellen nor I really need these, so I’m giving them to you. If you could stay calm when using magic, you’d have an easier time casting, right?”
Harriet seemed quite bewildered at my words that the object before her was an artifact with a permanent enchantment engraved on it.
Above all, she couldn’t understand why I was giving it to her.
“Where… Did you get these?”
“As I said, that’s hard for me to talk about.”
I smirked at her.
“Although this is kind of a bribe… Please take this and let go.” It might have been disappointing; she might have felt upset that I didn’t tell her anything.
“However, to tell you one thing, I risked my life to get them.”
I didn’t give her any details, but I managed to tell her that we only managed to get those after a lot of hard work—something we risked our lives for.
They fell into her hands. Harriet grabbed the earrings and just shook her head.
“I… also wanted to be of help.”
“Your bracelets really helped.”
“…I also wanted to go with you.”
Tears dripped on Harriet’s hands as she looked down.
“But there was no way that they would let a kid like me go somewhere so dangerous. When I asked, I-I almost got in trouble… Dad almost locked me up in my room in case I ran away. Only after Dad confirmed that you two were back… was I able to leave my room.”
Harriet wanted to goto the Darklands with us, but of course, her parents wouldn’t allow something like that.
So Harriet seemed to have been incarcerated, not spending a fun vacation.
Only after it was confirmed that we had returned to Temple did the Grand Duke of Saint-Owan allow Harriet to go out.
That was the decision the Grand Duke of Saint-Owan made.
If Harriet had followed us, she wouldn’t have been able to deal with those things. It was actually weirder that Ellen and I, who suffered from that much trauma, managed to hold on like we did.
It wasn’t that we treated her like a child. It would be weird for anyone to be able to handle something like that with ease, to begin with.
“Me too… I’m good with magic, I’m better than anyone… So… Then…”
Harriet was sobbing while clutching the earrings I gave her.
“Why was I not allowed to go with you guys?”
Harriet seemed to feel frustrated all on her own because she thought she wasn’t recognized as a proper wizard. It seemed that she thought that if she was able to play her role better than anyone else, then she would have been able to travel with us.
Because her parents didn’t recognize her abilities, and she herself knew that she wasn’t good enough.
—Harriet seemed to have felt deep disappointment during her vacations.
“It couldn’t be helped this time, right?”
She could already use more than enough practical magic. Her skills should have improved by a lot since the time we were on the uninhabited island. However, she only lacked cooperative abilities. If she wanted to, we could have gone together.
However, there was still the question of whether she would be able to handle herself or not.
If I ever decided to do something like that again, I had no intention of taking her with me.
What Harriet seemed to need at that moment was that lie, however.
“Thank you… Reinhardt.”
Harriet didn’t ask any more questions about what we went through.
“I’ll cherish them.”
She was crying while clutching her earrings.